Vets from Mars
By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor
For decades the “phony vet” flag has been raised but usually by people with agendas that have little to do with veterans, heroics or honor. Decades ago when I served as a Marine 0311 in Vietnam, might I remind you, in combat, none of us expected we would return home, those that survived, to the hatred of millions.
Worse yet, we also found ourselves surrounded by millions more who wanted to share our misery. Who, in heavens name, would ever want to admit to having served in combat in a nation where combat vets are cheered for a day and hated for a lifetime. Time we faced the real America that exists. Time we remembered we live in SWIFTBOAT AMERICA.
Based on how Americans vote, having dodged the draft, snuck into the National Guard (then a haven for cowards, today for heroes…and so it goes) in the middle of the night or having paid a doctor to send a “note” to the draft board is the type of wartime behavior veterans and voters in general seem to follow, as long as the coward in question gets photographed next to real soldiers often enough or can yell “bring it on” with the same bravado he used as a college cheerleader or while missing Alabama National Guard Mail Room Supervisor duties.
Our hunt for phonies knows no bounds. Seals look for phony seals, Special Forces look for phony SF guys, and hardly a day goes by without a phony POW running for office somewhere.
BG Burkett, an Army Supply officer who served in Saigon during the Vietnam War, even wrote a book, “Stolen Valor”, exposing a chosen few phonies.
Problem is, we don’t really ever ask the hard questions. It is like we are a nation of “ready fire aim” guys, all attention deficit, ready to shoot, ready to bomb but too lazy to read or remember. If we are going to dig up phonies, and there are millions of them around, we need to define who they are in the first place.
One question I ask myself is how we managed to turn POW’s into heroes? In the past, soldiers who surrendered to the enemy were cowards. In Vietnam, we had many who suffered greatly at the hands of vicious captors, but whose sacrifice was certainly much less than anyone on the wall and tens of thousands who suffered worse fates. However, POWs, usually officers, usually pilots and a smarter and better spoken lot than average have become a major political power in the US.
I have no empty respect for any of them. Years ago I remember discussing this issue with Air Force Colonel Ted Guy. He said that many of the people we are now treating like heroes suffered very little and that dozens should have been put in prison rather than getting ticker tape parades. When I hear about someone being captured with an empty pistol in their hands and dead enemies surrounding them, I know a hero. For those who fall into this category, I honor you.
As a Marine infantryman, I was told as was everyone around me that you were expected to fight to the death. It was our rule. Fight to the death and leave no one behind. When passing out honor, why is death in combat seemingly worthless compared to surrender?
The next thing I want to address is the idea that veterans who think a war is wrong are always phonies or cowards. In Vietnam I never met a single combat Marine that supported the South Vietnamese government or had anything good to say about the South Vietnamese army. However, most had respect for an enemy that we found resourceful and challenging. Without a good enemy, winning is nothing. Only well after I got back from Vietnam did I begin meeting veterans who were “patriotic supporters of Nixon and the war”. However, when checking them out, I found every single one of them to be phonies.
Truth is, all we ever talked about was how irritating “the Crotch” was (Crotch is a Marine Vietnam veterans term for the Marine corps…from what I understand that has officially been transitioned to “the SUCK”) and how we all wanted to live like REMF’s or officers, with no work to do, hot food and relative safety. Any one of us would have gladly changed places with any of the hundreds of thousands of rear echelon in Vietnam rather than sleeping on the ground every single night with a very uncertain future. I only met one person who refused a REMF (rear echelon) assignment. He was a good friend. (was) (check the wall for Lance Corporal Larry Williamson, as close to a real hero as I know)
Perhaps we should talk about medals. Standing in line to get into Chili’s at Ramstin AFB in Germany, there are Air Force administrative personnel with more medals than I have ever seen on any enlisted Marine, even those who had multiple wars behind them. (WW2, Korea, Vietnam)
I was staying at the Marine base in Quantico, VA during the opening of the WW2 Memorial. I was there with the Non Bush supporting RFTW (Run for the Wall) motorcyle group on my rice burning Kawasaki. I checked in around midnight and entered a lobby filled with WW2 vets invited to stay on base for the opening. One was a Marine Raider from WW2, part of the most elite group in the Corp’s history, units that ran commando raids from submarines against Japanese held islands during the darkest days of the Second World War.
As a rare opportunity, I latched onto one of these guys and we sat for hours, him in his wheelchair, me cross legged on the floor while I listened and learned. This guy was in uniform. He had 3 ribbons. And so it goes.
If we dragged the surviving members of my unit together, none would say, “hey, that Duff is a real hero”. Other words might be found, but hero would not be among the group. One guy alone got that distinction. Years later, he admitted to me he was drunk half the time. I was best man at his wedding last year. He could still get into dress blues. I hate that. However, in war time, he was the ultimate “badass”. His personal medals included a CAR (combat action ribbon) at campaign ribbon with 4 stars (we were in 4 campaigns together) along with a few unit decorations. In our Bn, he was know by all to be “the man”. He left Vietnam without a single personal citation although he earned the CMOH more than once. How he survived is a miracle.
However, not one officer left our unit with anything less than a Bronze Star and many with multiples along with Silver Stars. I can state categorically that most never saw one minute of combat. Some were great officers and deserved recognition while some were horrible officers who were removed from their units for incompetence and became “liaison officers”. They are all heroes today while those who fought and those who fought and died could eaily be called cowards and phonies because none of our real heroes have the credentials.
Those “in the know” know that the more medals you have, the further away from the fighting you were. There are obvious exceptions to this. Some people will do anything to get shot at. My favorite individual of this group is/was Army Colonel David Hackworth (we called him “hack”) Hack had almost as many medals as some of the “perfumed princes of the pentagon” he spent his life keeping in check.
“Hack’s” award list:
ENTITLEMENTS OF COL. DAVID H. HACKWORTH
(U.S. ARMY, RETIRED)
AWARDS & DECORATIONS
COLONEL DAVID H. HACKWORTH
(U.S. ARMY, RETIRED)
Individual Decorations & Service Medals:
- Distinguished Service Cross (with one Oak Leaf Cluster)
- Silver Star (with nine Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Legion of Merit (with three Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- Bronze Star Medal (with “V” Device & seven Oak Leaf Clusters)(Seven of the awards for heroism)
- Purple Heart (with seven Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Air Medal (with “V” Device & Numeral 34)(One for heroism and 33 for aerial achievement)
- Army Commendation Medal (w/ “V” Device & 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Good Conduct Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany and Japan Clasps)
- National Defense Service Medal (with one Bronze Service Star)
- Korean Service Medal (with Service Stars for eight campaigns)
- Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal (2 Silver Service Stars = 10 campaigns)
- Armed Forces Reserve Medal
- Presidential Unit Citation
- Valorous Unit Award (with one Oak Leaf Cluster)
- Meritorious Unit Commendation
Badges & Tabs:
- Combat Infantryman Badge (w/ one Star; representing 2 awards)
- Master Parachutist Badge
- Army General Staff Identification Badge
- United Nations Service Medal (Korea)
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device (1960)
- Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with two Gold Stars)
- Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with two Silver Stars)
- Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (1st Class)
- Vietnam Staff Service Medal (1st Class)
- Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 2d Class
- Vietnam Parachutist Badge (Master Level)
- Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
- Republic of Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation
- Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation (with three Palm oak leaf clusters)
- Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, First Class Unit Citation (with one Palm oak leaf cluster)
World War II Merchant Marine Awards:
- Pacific War Zone Bar
- Victory Medal
However, to win these medals, “Hack” was a Merchant Marine in WW2, a Platoon Sgt. in Korea and spent enough time in Vietnam to qualify for citizenship. “Hack” is buried in Arlington and regularly spoke out against corruption and favoritism in the military. He is missed. Please visit his site: www.hackworth.com or www.sftt.org
How do any of us pick out the phonies of the world? Is it really our job to point a finger and punish them? Here is another question, is a “chickenhawk” a phony? The definition of “chickenhawk” is someone who shirks duty during wartime but as a political or business leader pushes for war and the sacrifice of others. Soucewatch has a great list, worth looking at and remembering: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Chickenhawk
Chickenhawks are the enemy of all soldiers and veterans. If you can’t figure this out, please eat your voters registration card as a way of protecting society.
Picking out phonies that are homeless poor, deluded “wannabee’s” or barstool bullshitters is a waste of time until you get a bigger gun and aim a bit higher up the feeding chain. In a world ruled by arm chair generals, draft dodging politicians and war mongering extremists whose own children are “too good to fight”, perhaps it is time to clean the roaches out of the cupboards only after we get the RATS OUT OF OUR BEDROOM.